I first began working with bija mantras about 23 years ago. The more I practiced them, the less I felt connected to the vibrations of the two mantras yam and ham - which are the mantras for the heart and the throat chakra respectively.
Bija mantras are to be pronounced in such a manner that their vibrations act directly upon the core of the chakra. The mantras lam, vam and ram do have a direct resonance in the root chakra, the sex chakra and the abdominal (power) chakra, which are the chakras they are associated with. By this, I do not mean the anglicized pronunciation that many westerners use for these sounds, but the proper way in which the tongue is be positioned, as described in the booklet included in CD. Mantras, as I often remark, are a "yoga of the tongue" and these bijas mantras are particularly effective when tongue placement is properly considered.
In my practice, I discovered that the aspirated consonant ha resonates in the heart more naturally than in the throat. You may experiment by alternatingly placing the tips of your fingers on your throat and your upper chest as you sound the mantra "yam" and then doing the same for the mantra "ham" and then discern for yourself where the resonance is stronger.
It may also be of interest to you that in the Tibetan Tantric tradition, these syllables are sometimes used in order I have presented on the Shakti Yoga CD - lam, vam, ram, ham, yam, om.
I am not saying that I'm right, or that the popular sequence -- lam, vam, ram, yam, ham, omand is wrong. The Tantric tradition from which this sequence is derived never had a central authority that determined any specific methodologies and so there exist a variety of possibilities within the tradition offering a number of variations on the same practice. Perhaps this is what makes Tantra so powerful, the emphasis on individuality.
However, I do want to encourage the student to work with sound in a manner that involves being strongly aware of what the sounds are doing. Oftentimes, we function cerebrally, and do not pay attention to the direct experiences we are having as a result of our spiritual practice, assuming that the method is doing what it is supposed to do. While this is good on the one hand, it can also take away from the sharpness of our attention.
The invitation, I believe, is to experiment and come to direct knowledge: self-knowledge through self-experience. This, however, is not to propagate an approach wherein one does whatever he or she wants to do with a practice, but points to the freedom and necessity to develop an intimacy with spiritual processes and come to a deeply personal knowledge of their specific effects upon oneself.
Traditionally, the chakra bijas are not sounded aloud: they are used internally. To speak in favor of the specific order of the mantras being discussed, I would point out that yam (the heart bija) is a lighter, more feminine sound than ham, and may therefore have been chosen for the heart chakra. However, the density of the vibrations of all the other mantras appropriately match their chakric regions. I, personally, find a natural ascension in lam – vam – ram – ham – yam – om because it produces for me the right gradient of vibratory energy to move from dense to subtle oscillations when doing these mantras externally, that is, vocalizing them.
I find the aspirated consonant ha, ignite the heart space and vibrating strongly vibrates in the mid chest and solar plexus. Yam, which begins with a semi-vowel feels lighter than the “ha” and affects the back of the throat area especially because of the tongue position drawing one’s awareness into the mouth, throat and neck.
The Buddha once stated:
Believe nothing because a wise man said it
Believe nothing because it is generally held
Believe nothing because it is written
Believe nothing because it said the divine
But believe only what you yourself judge to be true.
Although there is a classical system of Kundalini Yoga that has been standardized and which must be respected, it is also necessary that we stay true to our personal experience and experimentation especially if it is rigorous and put to the test over a substantial amount of time. Rather than have our powers of perception dulled and our awareness lack the conviction of personal experience, mantra shastra is, in the final analysis, a science that is based on research and experimentation. Furthermore, there are exceptions to every rule, so we must learn to learn from our body as much as from our head. So please try both sequences and discover what you body reveals to you with an open mind. At the very least, you will know what works for you.
I hope this is helpful. You may additionally read my article on Shakti Yoga, which is about Kundalini Yoga and the Tantric Yoga tradition. Your comments are welcome and appreciated.
Yours in Spirit,
P.S. Originally, I wanted to include this article as well, but the space allocated for text in this project was limited.
All rights reserved. Copyright Russill Paul © Feb 2001, www.russillpaul.com